Thursday 30 May 2013

Red Triangle Slug

Image: Michael Murphy/AFP/Getty Images
Triboniophorus graeffei
Oh dear! Someone's been swimming in the nail polish!

Red Triangle Slugs are great, big slugs from some parts of the east coast of Australia, where it's nice and damp and moist and altogether wonderful for a slug. Humans are more likely to catch a cold, of course. And their rheumatism would act up.

Image: Wikipedia
Red Triangle Slugs are usually pale in colour...

Image: teejaybee
With a red triangle around their pneumostome, which is the hole they breath through...

Image: John Tann
And a strange pattern runs down their back. This is a common feature in the family to which the Red Triangle Slug belongs, and it earns them the name Leaf-veined Slugs. Which I suppose is better than the arteries and capillaries I would have thought up.

These slugs can reach up to 14 cm (6 in) long and spend their time quietly grazing on algae and mould from tree trunks. But if you see a lot of them, you'll notice that they're remarkably variable. They can be white, grey, yellow and more. The red triangle might be orange or maroon. They could have a red outline around their entire body. They can even be completely red!

Image: Michael Murphy
Or pink.

These shocking individuals reach 20 cm (8 in) long and are found only in a tiny area at the top of Mount Kaputar, an old, dormant volcano in New South Wales. They are a relic of Gondwana, when all the continents of the world were connected together and Australia was a little less "down under". Back then, much of eastern Australia was covered in forests. That old habitat is largely gone now, but it survives at higher elevations because a volcano exploded at the right time. It stopped exploding at the right time, too...

Now these cheery slugs are isolated at an elevation of 1,500 metres (5,000 feet), surrounded by rocks and dry plains. They spend the day hidden in the leaf litter, but come the cool, wet night, they emerge in their hundreds to climb up trees, feast on algae and generally brighten the place up. Hopefully it will be ample compensation for the dank atmosphere.

There is research currently going on to see if some of those colourful variants of the Red Triangle Slug are actually different species, and this pink fellow seems like a great place to start!


Check out this short interview with Michael Murphy, a ranger with the National Parks and Wildlife Service.


TexWisGirl said...

he's the perfect color of a pickled beet! :)

bananasloth said...

I'm very disappointed that the intro doesn't say "snail polish"

Joseph JG said...

Hahah! So am I!

Unknown said...

Ha ha snail polish